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Kurunegala royal court demolition: Karu, other public figures call for arrest

ECONOMYNEXT – Nearly a week since the controversial demolition of a purported 13th century archaeological site in Kurunegala, an arrest has yet to be made, Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said.

“A week has passed since the demolition of the 13 Century heritage site in Kurunegala, that survived many invasions and the colonial period. It’s a grave crime, but none has been arrested yet. Do not let people lose confidence in law enforcement. It will lead to a dangerous trend,” he tweeted today.

Jayasuriya is one of many public figures to voice their concern over the demolition, which made headlines over the weekend.

The site in question is said to be a king’s court or royal assembly hall purportedly built during the reign of King Buvanekabahu II in Kurunegala. A section of the hall was bulldozed on July 16 allegedly on the orders of Kurunegala Mayor Thushara Sanjeewa. Defending the move, Sanjeewa told reporters that the demolished building was not an archaeological site but a hotel named Buwaneka built in 1993. The “hotel” was an illegal construction, so it had to be torn down, Sanjeewa claimed.

Both the demolition and the mayor’s defence received widespread condemnation on mainstream and social media, prompting some to demand his resignation. Archaeology Department Director General Prof Senarath Dissanayake had lodged a formal complaint with the police, but no arrest has been made so far. Dissanayake had previously complained on July 6 about damages to the site’s drainage system.

The Archaeology chief is in a five-member expert committee to investigate the demolition, appointed last Friday (17) on a directive by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also the Minister of Cultural and Buddhist Affairs. The committee is expected to submit its report by July 23.

Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Galabodaatthe Gnanasara Thero who visited the site yesterday on an inspection tour questioned the delay in enforcing the law against those responsible. The firebrand monk said personal funds from those involved must be used to reconstruct the site, adding that once reconstruction is complete, it must be gazetted as an archaeological site.

The police yesterday called for an archaeological report on the incident, with Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) pledging an in-depth investigation. According to Police Spokesman SSP Jaliya Senaratne, the SSP of the Kurunegala police has been instructed to submit an investigation report and information has already been presented to the Kurunegala Magistrate Court.

The demolition has taken a political turn, with opposition parties calling out government’s inaction over the incident.
Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) candidate Ajith P Perera criticised the decision to appoint a committee.

“Instead of arresting the mayor who carried out a serious criminal act, the government has appointed a committee to investigate whether King Buvanekabahu had made an illegal construction,” Perera told an election rally on Saturday (18). (Colombo/Jul20/2020)

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